(Sedona, Arizona) Here in one of America’s truly spectacular beauty spots it is possible to forget the outside world while hiking the remoter trails of Arizona’s Red Rock State Park lands. Occasionally “reality” intrudes (e.g. U.S. Park service personnel performing the “essential” task of towing the cars of “lawless” citizens who had the effrontery to hike into “closed” Federal Park Lands).
Given the depressing spectacle of political impotence in Washington- a president who cannot lead and Republicans who will not follow- normal people are tempted to turn to more rational human dramas like the Baseball Playoffs (Tigers-Red Sox one for the Ages!). Nonetheless an audible sigh of relief was heard in some quarters with the heartwarming news that the Federal Government had re-opened and the limits on the astronomical Federal Debt had been lifted thereby allowing us to borrow yet more money from China.
Even among those who failed to notice the Government was shut and the childless who are spared any personal regret over the abuse of future generations there was curiosity about where the National Soap Opera goes from here.
Democrats were busy persuading each other that they had really stuck it to Republicans this time and stoutly defended the inviolability of that National treasure known as Obamacare. Republicans were busy congratulating each other for having “Fought the Good Fight” despite having won nothing but bad publicity and the dubious benefit of getting Obama to consider future negotiations on the topic of whether negotiations are needed at all.
The Big Winners were those who had predicted all along that the “Kick the Can down the Road” strategy would prevail once again. The Big Losers were those simple-minded souls who deluded themselves into thinking that the self-evident Peril to the Country would produce some “Grand Bargain” fashioned from the magic elixir of “Bi-Partisan Patriotism”.
The “Deal” that ended the Shutdown and raised the Debt Ceiling shows pretty clearly what the future holds: unrelenting political combat from here to the Horizon. The last few weeks have produced a perverse result: both political parties are more than ever convinced of their own Righteousness and their opponent’s Wickedness.
The “Deal” calls for that old Washington standby, a bi-partisan committee to produce a Budget Agreement by December 13th. Given the absolute fixation of Democrats on “Taxes” and Republicans on “Cuts” said committee will produce nothing but Deadlock and Loud Mutual Recrimination.
This will set the table for the expiration of the “Continuing Resolution (CR)” on January 15th and the need to raise the Debt Ceiling again by February 15th. On these two deadlines the battle lines are already visible.
Republicans learned the hard way that shutting down the government was a loser and will go nowhere near that tactic in the year remaining before the 2014 elections. Belatedly and with no small embarrassment the GOP has also realized that they could have avoided all this trouble had they granted Obama the lengthy “Clean CR” he originally demanded. By doing so they would have enlarged their only major victory of the last five years i.e. the “Sequester” (a.k.a. The Budget Control Act of 2011) which has ratcheted downward total Federal spending for two consecutive years- something that hasn’t happened since the end of the Korean War.
Also dawning upon Republicans is the fundamental unwisdom of their quixotic attempt to “Defund” Obamacare. It is now obvious that the GOP should have done absolutely nothing to distract the public from the disaster that was the “Roll-Out” of Obama’s signature accomplishment.
Democrats are also regretting their own miscalculations that are now coming home to roost.
Their certainty that the GOP would never accept the “Sequester” because of the attendant defense cuts was proved wrong and now that law is the thing they hate more than anything else because it is steadily chipping away at funding for their cherished social programs.
An even greater source of Democratic anguish is the realization that if they had benevolently granted to all Americans the one year delay of Obamacare that they had already given to Big Business they could have pushed the political dynamite of a failed Roll-Out beyond the 2014 elections upon which Obama has pinned all his hopes. Instead what Democratic Senator Max Baucus called the Obamacare “Train-Wreck” is going to unfold in public every day of the year preceding those elections as millions of Americans are notified of soaring premiums, co-pays, and deductibles to pay for the Health Care Program that Obama promised would “bend the cost curve downward”.
So, what the Future holds is this: No significant laws will be passed amidst this Ocean of Distrust and Rancor. The Administration will continue to promote its “transformation” of America through onerous Regulation, and the Deadlock of Democracy will continue until decisive Elections decree otherwise.
William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Times, Denver Post, and Human Events.